Olympic Year in Review: Headlines

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OlympicTalk takes a look back at the year in Olympic sports this week. Today, we review enduring news stories.

US Speedskating’s Sochi Problems

U.S. speed skaters starred in the World Cup season before the Olympics. That, combined with US Speedskating’s history of Olympic medals (more than 20 more than any other U.S. winter sport), portended success in Sochi.

But the U.S. won zero long-track speed skating medals for the first time since 1984. They weren’t even close. The best individual finish was seventh place.

What went wrong? Early reports emphasized an Under Armour racing suit billed as the fastest in the world, different from the suits that U.S. skaters wore during the World Cup season. Skaters eventually reverted to the old suits during the Olympics, but results didn’t get any better.

US Speedskating cited several factors and finalized an internal report in May, also including a decision to hold a pre-Olympic training camp outdoors and up in the mountains in Collalbo, Italy. The Olympic speed skating events were indoors and near sea level.

This season, two-time Olympic champion Shani Davis started out slow but made his first podium in his last World Cup race of 2014. Heather Richardson has been arguably the most impressive male or female skater so far, while Brittany Bowe has also made the podium multiple times.

Olympic Year in Review: Winter Sports | Summer Sports | Photos | Social Media

Yuna Kim Judging Controversy

Russian figure skater Adelina Sotnikova‘s victory over defending champion Yuna Kim in Sochi became the controversy of the Winter Games, in competition at least.

One of the judges is married to a top Russian figure skating federation official and was seen hugging Sotnikova shortly after she won gold. Another judge was suspended one year as being part of the 1998 Olympic ice dance fixing scandal.

Kim retired after the Olympics, but South Korea’s Skating Union announced one month later that it would file an official protest to the International Skating Union. In June, the International Skating Union rejected the complaints.

It certainly looks like we’ll see Kim at the 2018 Olympics, since she is an ambassador for the first Winter Games in South Korea. Sotnikova, meanwhile, hasn’t competed in top-level international competition since Sochi, suffering a torn ankle ligament this fall.

source: Getty Images
Getty Images

Oscar Pistorius Trial

A trial that gripped South Africa and made headlines worldwide began a little over one week after the Sochi Olympics ended.

Oscar Pistorius, the first double amputee to run in the Olympics in 2012, faced up to life in prison for shooting and killing girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp on Valentine’s Day 2013.

Pistorius’ trial began March 3, was initially slated for three weeks and ran to Oct. 21 with several breaks. On the 49th day in court, Pistorius was sentenced to no more than five years in prison for culpable homicide (but not premeditated murder) with a possibility of it being less than a year and the rest served under house arrest.

On Dec. 10, judge Thokozile Masipa ruled South Africa’s Supreme Court of Appeal will review the murder trial. Pistorius, 28, is barred from the Rio 2016 Paralympics under his current sentence but could be allowed to return to track and field.

Michael Phelps’ Comeback

The most decorated Olympian of all time came out of a 20-month competitive retirement in April, won his first final in May and was the best U.S. men’s swimmer again by August.

Phelps won USA Swimming’s Male Athlete of the Year and finished the season as the only U.S. man with the fastest time in the world in an Olympic event (100m butterfly).

Then, Phelps was pulled over and arrested on DUI charges in September, suspended six months by USA Swimming in October and received probation after pleading guilty in a Baltimore court in December.

The 29-year-old is training again, after spending 45 days in an Arizona treatment program, and focused on unspecified goals for 2015. He is barred from the 2015 World Championships, the biggest meet between now and his potential fifth Olympics in 2016.

Michael Phelps’ potential record chases at Rio Olympics

2024 Olympics

In 2013, the 2020 Olympics were awarded to Tokyo. The focus quickly turned to the next Summer Games, and which city they would be awarded to in 2017.

The U.S. Olympic Committee ramped up its bidding process in 2014, choosing four finalist cities in June (from an initial group of more than 30 to which it sent letters in February 2013). In December, the USOC announced it would bid for the 2024 Olympics, its first bid since Chicago’s failed bid for the 2016 Games.

The U.S. is expected to choose one city from Boston, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington, D.C., in January to be its 2024 bid. The U.S. is in the midst of its longest stretch between hosting Olympics (since 2002) since a 28-year gap from 1932 to 1960.

The U.S. will also get to size up its competition in 2015, with bids confirmed for Rome and either Berlin or Hamburg. Paris and South Africa may also join the fray.

2024 Olympics coverage

Lindsey Vonn’s Comeback

The 2010 Olympic downhill champion Lindsey Vonn announced on Jan. 7 that she would undergo a second knee surgery in less than a year’s time and miss the Sochi Olympics. But she would return to ski racing, and the Olympics in 2018.

Racing another four years? Skepticism was merited. Vonn will be 33 come Pyeongchang 2018, older than any previous Winter Olympic women’s Alpine medalist.

But Vonn silenced doubters with victories in two of her first four races back in December. She goes into the new year one win shy of the women’s all-time World Cup record and a medal favorite at the World Championships in Vail/Beaver Creek in February.

Video: Vonn falls in final race of 2014

Valencia Marathon produces historic times in men’s, women’s races

2022 Valencia Marathon
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Kenyan Kelvin Kiptum and Ethiopian Amane Beriso won the Valencia Marathon and became the third-fastest man and woman in history, respectively.

Kiptum, a 23-year-old in his marathon debut, won the men’s race in 2 hours, 1 minute, 53 seconds. The only men to ever run faster over 26.2 miles are legends: Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge (2:01:09 world record, plus a 2:01:39) and Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele (2:01:41).

Kipchoge made his marathon debut at age 28, and Bekele at 31.

Beriso, a 31-year-old whose personal best was 2:20:48 from January 2016, stunned the women’s field Sunday by running 2:14:58. The only women to have run faster: Kenyans Brigid Kosgei (2:14:04) and Ruth Chepngetich (2:14:18).

Ethiopian Letesenbet Gidey finished second in 2:16:49, the fastest-ever time for a woman in her marathon debut. Gidey is the world record holder at 5000m and 10,000m.

Valencia is arguably the top annual marathon outside of the six World Marathon Majors. The next major marathon is Tokyo on March 5.

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Aleksander Aamodt Kilde wins Beaver Creek downhill

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BEAVER CREEK, Colo. — Norway’s Aleksander Aamodt Kilde won his second straight World Cup downhill race to start the season, despite feeling under the weather.

Although dealing with an illness all week in training, Kilde powered through the challenging Birds of Prey course Saturday in a time of 1 minute, 42.09 seconds. It was enough to hold off Marco Odermatt of Switzerland by 0.06 seconds. James Crawford of Canada was third to earn his second career World Cup podium finish.

Kilde also won the opening downhill last weekend in Lake Louise, Alberta.

“It’s been a tough week,” Kilde said after the race. “I caught the flu in Lake Louise after a very, very nice weekend. It really hit me hard. Then I got a couple of days to rest and take it easy. … I felt OK. Still feeling it a little bit in my system.”

The Beaver Creek crew members had the course in solid shape a day after a downhill race was canceled due to high wind and snowfall.

ALPINE SKIING: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Kilde reached speeds around 75 mph in picking up his eighth World Cup downhill victory. That tied him with Kjetil Jansrud for the third-most downhill wins in the World Cup discipline among Norwegian men. The total trails only Aksel Lund Svindal (14) and Lasse Kjus (10).

“I found a really, really good set-up with my equipment and also with my skiing,” Kilde explained. “I believe in myself. I trust in myself. I have a good game plan. When I stand on the start, I don’t dwell on anything. I know that this plan is what I do and when I do that it’s going to be fast.”

Odermatt has been on the podium in all four World Cup races this season as he tries to defend his overall World Cup title. The 25-year-old finished third in the opening downhill of the season last weekend. He’s also won a giant slalom race and a super-G.

Ryan Cochran-Siegle wound up in seventh place for the top American finish. He was ninth in the downhill in Lake Louise.

“It’s been solid,” Cochran-Siegle said of his strides in the discipline. “A couple of little things here and there that pushed me off that top three. You have to ski with a lot of intensity and ski without abandon, in a sense. Today was a good step.”

Switzerland’s Beat Feuz, who won the Olympic downhill gold medal at the Beijing Games last February, tied for ninth.

The Beaver Creek stop on the circuit comes to a close Sunday with a super-G race. Odermatt will be the favorite after holding off Kilde in the opening super-G last weekend.

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